Poor sleeping habits are associated with an increased risk of weight gain and obesity. Short sleepers (< 7 hours/night) and long sleepers (> 9 hours/night) are more likely to be obese. Other sleep characteristics associated with obesity include daytime napping, working night shifts, poor sleep quality and evening chronotype (being a “night person”). Individuals who tend to stay up late at night, and sleep during the morning hours, are more likely to have poor eating habits, engage in late-night snacking, have sleep apnea and higher levels of stress hormones. Night owls are also more likely to develop diabetes and metabolic conditions.
A study in the April 2017 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated sleep patterns in those with a genetic risk for obesity. Among individuals at risk for obesity, short sleepers and long sleepers had a greater body mass than normal sleepers, those who sleep between seven and nine hours per night. Sleep duration was not significantly associated with body weight in individuals with a low genetic risk for obesity. Sleep behaviors are more likely to affect individuals who are at risk for obesity based on their genes.
This study sheds light on the interactions between our genes and our lifestyle. Sleeping behaviors influence our genes, and those at risk of obesity may be able to moderate weight gain by changing their sleeping habits.
Christine Dobrowolski is a nutritionist and whole-foods advocate.